Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

May 3, 2014

Council candidates vie for Dist. 2 seat

JACKSONVILLE — The District 2 Jacksonville City Council seat is up for grabs, and three local residents are vying for the position.

With early voting continuing through Tuesday, and Election Day on May 10, we asked the three candidates a set of five questions pertaining to the city.

Below are the questions and the answers received from Incumbent Jeff Smith and candidates Darrell Prcin and Kara Hancock:

Jeff Smith - Incumbent

Question 1: Why are you running for the Jacksonville City Council?

My family moved to Jacksonville when I was 12. By the time I was 15 I had joined the police explorers. They helped the police with parking at public events and things like that. I then joined the Jacksonville Volunteer Fire Dept. Realizing pretty quickly that I enjoyed volunteering I continued to serve the community through various organizations. In 2001, I was appointed to fill the unexpired term for the Councilman for District 2. I am proud to say that I work hard for our district. As a young man I enjoyed volunteering and that is still true today. I really like hearing from the folks in district two and have enjoyed serving as their councilman.  It is both a pleasure and an honor to have the citizens entrust me with issues in our district.     

2. What experience do you have that will benefit you and the city in this position?

Almost 30 years ago my brother and I saved our money and literally rolled coins to make the down payment on a wrecker and with that truck Smith Brothers Towing was established. As the company grew so did my knowledge of business and finance. I came to understand state, federal and local regulations in order to keep my truck rolling. As with all businesses there were some lean years and it was thru those lean years that I realized the importance of paying as you go so as not to incur to much dept.  Many of the principles  I learned in starting and operating Smith Brothers have been useful to me as a councilman. I have learned a lot during my time on the council.  It can be challenging

sometimes because there are a lot of laws and ordinances that must be adhered to.  One of the first things I learned is that I am no politician. I can't always make everyone happy. What I can do is listen to the people in our district and investigate their issues. I will always be available to the people I serve, I may have to call you back but I can assure you that you will have my undivided attention. I will make every effort to resolve issues that are brought to my attention. We have accomplished much during my 12 years serving the people of District 2 but there is more work to be done. It is my goal to make Jacksonville the very best it can be.

3. What issues in Jacksonville do you feel need more attention? (City's

animal restraint law, lawn maintenance ordinance, water/sewer concerns,

departmental budgets, ETC.?)

We have been working to improve our infrastructure by using state and federal grant money. I want to continue securing grants so that we can be the best possible stewards of our tax money. I am not a believer in simply raising taxes  when funding is needed.  Every possible outside source of funding should be explored before putting additional tax burden on our own citizens.  Also we need to do all we can to make Jacksonville look as clean and inviting as possible. We all know its a great place to live, work and retire and we want people who visit here to know it too. It will take a community effort to make this happen, that means every citizen that is able. We have to work together to improve the quality of our lives here in Jacksonville. Everyday I make sure I do something to make our city a better place to live weather it is picking up trash I see when I get our of my truck or covering a little graffiti I noticed somewhere. If everyone does a little everyday together we can accomplish a lot.   

4. What will you do to encourage businesses to relocate to Jacksonville?

Are you for or against tax abatements to lure new businesses or

encourage expansion?

The City of Jacksonville and JEDCO have been working together to lure more businesses to town.  We have several new companies that are already on the way:

Tube-Fab   re-locating here from White Oak and will be located in the vacant EZO building; Tejas Housing  building48 cottages on Hwy 175 a $7.5 million project; Fieser Development remodeling 3 different apartment complexes in town a $4.5 mllion project; Superior Diecast moving to vacant Tally-Ho building on Bolton St.; Specialty Retailers  which is Stage Stores adding 100 jobs and relocating to vacant Astro-Air building. It is important to do everything we can to bring even more business to our community. Sometimes tax abatement's can help attract new businesses. We have done tax abatement's in the past and future cases should be carefully evaluated on an individual bases. It is critical that we as citizens get the best deal that we can for our tax dollars.  

5. The City of Jacksonville has supported a policy of reducing the debt

of the city in recent years. If elected, would you support this policy? If so, is there any aspect to the city's approach to debt/finances that you would want to change?

During the time that I have been on the City Council we have worked hard to reduce our debt and have reduced it by more than half. Ten years ago our debt was over $20 million, and I am happy to say we owe less than $10 million today.  We have aggressively paid down our debt so future generations are not responsible for it.  I think that is pretty important.  I want to see more facility and infrastructure improvements made thru pay as your go plans and grants so as not to incur more debt.

Darrell Prcin

Question 1: Why are you running for the Jacksonville City Council?

We need to move Jacksonville forward, maintaining the status quo is not progress. I have seen the decline of Jacksonville in the last few years and we need leaders who will make the difficult decisions to restore our great community. I feel that I can offer a new positive approach.

2. What experience do you have that will benefit you and the city in

this position?

I have spent almost forty years in professional careers working in communities and with councils concerning multiple issues. I have participated and attended city council meetings from several areas of our great state. I have seen the challenges that communities face. I will research and answer all questions. I will return phone calls.

3. What issues in Jacksonville do you feel need more attention? (City's

animal restraint law, lawn maintenance ordinance, water/sewer concerns,

departmental budgets, ETC.?)

Going forward Jacksonville will need to come to terms with many issues. Improvement is difficult and requires an aggressive commitment by city leadership. Aging infrastructure, growing the tax base, targeted annexations, specific ordinances to address the appearance of our community, and additional code enforcement personnel are all first step issues. Also a community master plan needs to be mapped out for the future progress of our city.

4. What will you do to encourage businesses to relocate to Jacksonville?

Are you for or against tax abatements to lure new businesses or

encourage expansion?

During my tenure at JEDCO we were successful in attracting many industries to Jacksonville. Some large, some small, but all are important to our overall  economy. I feel it is critical for JEDCO to reinstate our business retention and expansion program for existing industries. We used this program effectively in years passed but have strayed from its usefulness as a marketing tool. It is much less expensive to grow our existing industries than to attract new ones. Both programs are very important to our job growth. Tax abatements need to be used very sparingly and for only those new industries who will be hiring over one hundred employees and have at least a two million dollar annual payroll. Any tax abatements offered will need to be over five years with declining ratios of 100 percent year one, to 20 percent year five.

5. The City of Jacksonville has supported a policy of reducing the debt

of the city in recent years. If elected, would you support this policy? If so, is there any aspect to the city's approach to debt/finances that you would want to change?

Obviously we are required to pay our bills. Unfortunately we cannot print money like our federal counterparts. The bills to which you refer are part of a long term bond program enacted years ago to pay for infrastructure improvements. The city has been paying down the debt but it requires spending current tax dollars and places a degree of burden on current city needs. This will improve over the next few years. Going forward we have to be cautious about incurring long term debt that will affect tax payers and city budgets well into the future.

Kara Hancock

1. Why are you running for the Jacksonville City Council?

I am so thankful to call Jacksonville, Texas, my home now for 23 years.  I would love to be able to give back to this community who has been supportive of my family for so long. My goal is to show all the children of Jacksonville, Texas, including my own, that we can co-create the best place to live in Texas.

2. What experience do you have that will benefit you and the city in this position?

I have benefited greatly in my business experience, working alongside my amazing mother all these years, while she created Gourmet Gardens, which she started in our kitchen, and is now a nationally recognized leader in gourmet canned goods and grosses over 10 million dollars a year.  I have finally convinced my mother to move our business inside the city limits, to the old Berry’s Tin Shop location on Tena Street, where we are putting in a state of the art manufacturing facility as we speak and bringing 75 new jobs to Jacksonville.  I look forward to working with the city and chamber to grow the business sector here in Jacksonville.   

3. What issues in Jacksonville do you feel need more attention? (City's animal restraint law, lawn maintenance ordinance, water/sewer concerns, departmental budgets, ETC.?)

I am thankful to all those who have worked very hard for many years to provide the infrastructure that we all enjoy here in Jacksonville.  Currently, I see many areas across the board, where we are not reaching our potential and desperately need attention.  I would like to become involved with the city council to help create new job opportunities for citizens, and connect the citizens with the city officials so we can work together to create the type of town we all want to live, work, and raise our children in.  

4. What will you do to encourage businesses to relocate to Jacksonville? Are you for or against tax abatements to lure new businesses or encourage expansion?

Here in Jacksonville, Texas, we have no shortage of great locations to start a business or relocate a current business.  Many of these locations have the capacity to hold large manufacturing plants.  We have many great people who need jobs.  We are located on one of the most traveled intersections in the United States.  We must utilize our strengths and get out and sell Jacksonville to the companies, like Gourmet Gardens, who would greatly appreciate the real estate value we have available here.  Tax abatements are only one tool among many that we have to secure new business.  We need to use every tool we have, with in reason, to get business booming again soon.  

5. The City of Jacksonville has supported a policy of reducing the debt of the city in recent years.  If elected, would you support this policy? If so, is there any aspect to the city's approach to debt/finances that you would want to change?

The City of Jacksonville has done an incredible job in reducing the $20 million + debt that we had only a few years ago.  By continuing with the current policy, is my understanding that we will be debt free in near to 5-7 years.  This means we will have funds available relatively soon that we will be able to use for the betterment of our community.  This is a huge feat and I applaud the City Manager and others in their efforts.  In the meantime, however, we need to listen carefully to the needs of our citizens, and come up with creative options, to meet the needs of this community.  I am thrilled to be involved with the recent partnership of the City of Jacksonville and the newly formed J’Ville Volunteers that are working creatively to clean up and restore all of the city parks, add new Little Free Libraries at every park before summer, and painting fire hydrants, etc.  This is the way we can move forward together as a successful community and leader in East Texas. When we work together, EVERYTHING is possible.

 

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